Updated: September 25, 2023Published: September 21, 2023
I wish words could describe the magical feeling after stepping foot in one of these stunning cathedrals and famous churches in Spain that house years of history, tradition, culture, and art and hold on to so much of the country’s legacy.
You don’t need to be religious or Catholic in any way to be amazed by the magnificence of these architectural wonders. Many of these structures have witnessed Spain’s history dating back to the 13th century and even earlier!
From the Moorish era to Gaudí! The fusion of styles, details, and settings, these are the most iconic Cathedrals and popular religious hubs!
So, let’s explore the unique sites that have stood the test of time.
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1. Barcelona Cathedral
In the well-known Gothic neighborhood of Barcelona, surrounded by buildings consistent with its medieval architecture, stands one of the most important cathedrals of Mediterranean Gothic, if we talk about the architectural aspect.
Its origin is ancient. Already in the Visigothic era, in the year 599, there was a cathedral dedicated to the Holy Cross in this place. It seems that the first building was destroyed after the Arab invasion and that centuries later, in 877, Bishop Frodoinus asked Charles the Bald to help rebuild the temple.
Address: Pla de la Seu, s/n, 08002 Barcelona
Opening Hours: From 8:30 a.m to 7:30 a.m
2. Seville Cathedral
In the heart of the City of Seville, between the Santa Cruz neighborhood and the Guadalquivir River, stands one of the largest cathedrals in Spain.
It occupies the place, as occurs in many other cities, of an old principal mosque, in this case, Almohad, of which it still preserves distinctive features such as the Patio de los Naranjos or the minaret, which we know as the Giralda. Another famous attraction in Seville!
The Sevillian mosque that Abu Yaqub Yusuf had built in the year 1172 was one of the most important in Al-Andalus, and, although today it is a Christian temple, if you look carefully, you can still recognize many elements of its Almohad past.
Address:Av. de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10:45 AM – 5 PM | Sundays: 2:30 – 6:30 PM
3. Burgos Cathedral
In the heart of the medieval city of Burgos stands one of the most beautiful and famous cathedrals in Spain, which has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
It is one of the most complete examples of Spanish Gothic in all its splendor, both in terms of architecture and related to the numerous decorative arts that adorn it.
The history of this magnificent temple dates back to the times of Alfonso VI, who donated a series of palaces to build the Romanesque cathedral in the last years of the 11th century.
In the Middle Ages, the diocese of Burgos not only enjoyed the favor of the kings but also had the privilege of depending directly on Rome, privileged until the end of the 16th century.
Address:Pl. Sta. María, s/n, 09003 Burgos
Opening Hours: From March 19 to October 31: 9:30 to 19:30 pm (closed entrances at 18:30). From Nov. 1 to March 18: 10:00 to 19:00 h.
4. Granada Cathedral
In the old town of Granada stands a large cathedral church comprising a mix of buildings from different periods on the remains of the beautiful royal mosque of the Nazarite capital.
Once the city was conquered, the Catholic kings needed not only a symbol of Christian power over the Muslim one but also a place, and what better than a great place where they could rest their remains for eternity.
Address:C. Gran Vía de Colón, 5, 18001 Granada
Opening Hours: Monday: 10 AM – 6:30 PM | Tuesday to Saturday 10 AM – 8:15 PM | Sunday 3 PM – 6:15 PM
5. Toledo Cathedral
In the heart of the city of three cultures, Toledo, where Christians, Arabs, and Jews lived together, a large Gothic cathedral stands next to the Jewish quarter, surrounded by churches once mosques or synagogues.
The Toledo cathedral did not escape this fate of conversion, except that the central mosque, the most sacred place for Muslims, was chosen to transform it into the great Christian temple that the victors needed.
After the Reconquista in 1085, Alfonso Vi promised to respect the grand mosque in exchange for surrendering the city without bloodshed. Still, this promise was not fulfilled. Although the architecture of the building was appreciated, it was adapted to dedicate it to Christian worship.
This was the case until the 13th century when Ferdinand III decided that the time had come to erect a great temple. On August 14, 1227, the first stone was laid.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 10am until 6.30pm and on Sundays from 2.30pm to 6.30pm.
6. Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
En la hermosa ciudad de Cordoba los arabes levantaron, junto al Rio Guadalquivir, una de las mezquitas mas grandes del mundo; una obra tan bella que los cristianos no osaron demolerla, aunque optaron por adaptar el templo cristiano a la estructura califal.
En este solar se puede admirar un templo dedicado a Jano en la epoca romana y mas tarde una iglesia cristiana dedicada a San Vicente. Esta fue la iglesia que tuvieron que derribar los musulmaners para construir su mezquita mayor.
La mezquita la comenzo el primer califa Omeya, Abderraman, a finales del siglo VIII. Luego vino Al-Hakam II, en el año 961, amplio las naves, luego Almanzor, volvio a ampliar la mezquita y con su muerte, en el año 1236, los cristianos, al mando del Rey Fernando el Santo, conquistaban la ciudad.
Address:C. Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 Córdoba
March-October: Monday to Saturday, 10.00-19:00 h.| Sundays and religious holidays, 8:30-11:30h. and 15:00-19:00 h.
November-February: Monday to Saturday, 8:30-18:00 h. | Sundays and religious holidays, 8:30-11:30h. and 15:00-18:00 h.
In the heart of the old town of Gerona, on a hill accessed by an impressive staircase, stands the city’s Gothic cathedral: a majestic building built over three centuries, from the 14th to the 16th.
On the site where it stands today, there was a feline Romanesque church from the 10th century.
Bishop Pedro Roger was the one who started the Romanesque cathedral in the mid-11th century, thanks to the donations of his brother-in-law, Count Don Ramon III, the origin of the current Gothic factory.
The view of Girona Cathedral from the apse is beautiful; it has some vital details in the central entrance and two beautiful Romanesque towers.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 10 AM to 5:30 PM. | Saturdays: 10 AM–6:30 PM | Sundays: 12 AM – 5:30 PM.
8. León Cathedral
In what today are the limits of the old town of León, and in the center of an esplanade that in Roman times housed some thermal baths, later a Visigothic church and then the Ordoño II palace, stands the Gothic factory of the cathedral of Lion; a masterpiece inspired by the great cathedrals of northern France.
Ordoño gave his palace so that the first Leonese cathedral could be built in Romanesque style, of which some remains have been discovered in the temple’s cloister.
In the purest Gothic style, the current cathedral began to be built at the end of the 12th century, when Alfonso XI reigned and Leon Manrique de Lara was bishop.
Address:Pl. de Regla, s/n, 24003 León
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday: 9:30 to 13:30h.
9. Málaga Cathedral
Very close to the sea and a few meters from the port of Málaga stands one of the most characteristic cathedrals of the Andalusian Renaissance, whose construction, very close to where the Arabs had their main mosque, began in the year 1528 and lasted until the end of the 18th century.
The origin of the Malaga bishopric is very ancient; There is even talk of its foundation back in the 1st century AD by one of the disciples of Peter or Santiago. Still, the first News we have dates back to the Visigothic era, in which it is known that there were several bishops appointed to the diocese from Málaga.
In the heart of the historic center of Valencia stands the cathedral, surrounded by many buildings, among which stands, like a minaret, the graceful octagonal tower of the temple, known as Miguelete.
On October 9, 1938, James I conquered Valencia. I ordered the Muslim mosque to be blessed and purified so that the Virgin Mary, of whom he was very devoted and whose puncture he took to battles, would have a decent place to stay, hence the future cathedral.
It has a magnificent Gothic rose window on the façade! The oldest doorway of the temple is called the palace since it faces the archiepiscopal palace on one of the sides of the transept. It is an original flared Romanesque doorway from the 13th century with Mudejar elements.
Address:Pl. de l’Almoina, s/n, 46003 València
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday: from 10 am to 6.30 pm. | Sundays and holidays: from 2 to 6.30 p.m.
If you’re interested in living in Valencia, this podcast episode is for you!
11. La Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia is the best-known and most characteristic monument of the whole city of Barcelona. Besides being the most significant symbol, it is also the maximum exponent of modernist architecture created by Antoni Gaudí, the most renowned Barcelona architect.
The construction of this exuberant temple began in 1882 with a neo-Gothic style. A year later, they gave the project to Gaudí, who completely rethought it. Sadly, Gaudí died in 1926 and left this masterpiece unfinished. Yet, thanks to the plans that remain, other artists and donors are continuing the project so it can be finished one day!
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday: from 9 am to 8 pm. | Sundays and holidays: from 10:30 to 8:00 p.m.
12. Murcia Cathedral
The Cathedral of Murcia is a large building from the late Gothic period that, contrary to what happened with most Spanish cathedrals, was built quickly.
However, it later underwent several reforms, such as the one undertaken with the splendid Baroque façade that replaced the original one, which collapsed due to the leaks of the Segura River, very close to the cathedral.
The episcopal origin of Murcia is among the oldest in Spain. Some say that it dates back to Roman domination. Yet, for historians, it is more certain that it had bishops already in the times of the Visigodos.
It has a splendid baroque façade and a mighty bell tower, built between the 16th and 17th centuries. It also has impressive columns, and the cathedral’s interior is beautiful, with baroque organs, pointed arches, and ribbed vaults.
Address:Palacio Episcopal, Pl. del Cardenal Belluga, s/n, 30001 Murcia
The city’s splendid Gothic cathedral stands by Palma’s beautiful bay. It is an impressive building that imposes its presence on the entire urban complex.
The construction of this cathedral began with the royal chapel. Still, it is not known who was the author of the project, although Don Juan Augustin Cea Bermudez, in his work News of the Architects and Architecture of Spain, says:
“There are fair reasons to believe that the architect of this great work was one of the famous Pisa architects, who so ennobled Gothic-Germanic architecture in his country.”
Address:Plaça de la Seu, s/n, 07001 Palma, Illes Balears
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 10.00 a.m.- 5.15 p.m. | Saturday: 10.00 a.m.- 2.15 p.m. | Closed on Sundays
On June 17, 1993, Pope John Paul II, in the presence of the kings of Spain, solemnly consecrated one of the last great temples built in Europe, that of Almudena, whose construction, in the style of the ancient cathedrals, had lasted a century in which, as always, there was no shortage of modifications and some controversies.
The origin of this Madrid temple dates back to one of the oldest parishes in the city, that of Santa María, where the image of Our Lady of Almudena, patron saint of the town, was venerated.
Still, the cathedral was built during the reign of Alfonso XII, who gave some land in front of the royal palace for its construction. The first stone was laid on April 4, 1883.
Address:C. de Bailén, 10, 28013 Madrid
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 10.00 a.m.- 8.30 p.m.
In the highest part of the city of Segocia stands one of the latest Gothic cathedrals in Spain, which, due to its elegant architecture, has earned the name of the lady of the Spanish cathedrals.
The first Segovian cathedral, the one of Santa María, was consecrated in 1228. It was built in the Romanesque style and lasted three centuries.
Unfortunately, when the communal wars 1521 destroyed this resistant building, it was almost entirely ruined; only the abbey remained. Also, some altarpieces and stained glass windows were saved and later incorporated into the new building.
When it had to be redone, it was done in the Gothic style, an art in decline that gave rise to a new artistic conception, the Renaissance.
The first stone of the new temple was placed on June 8, 1525, trusted by Juan Gil de Ontañon, architect of the famous Salamanca Cathedral, which we will see below.
Address:C. Marqués del Arco, 1, 40001 Segovia
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 9.30 a.m.- 6.30 p.m.
The exceptional Salamanca is one of the Spanish cities with two cathedrals: the old one, in Romanesque style, and the new one, in Gothic; two cathedrals that intermingle in the same space, configured today as a fascinating monumental complex.
La catedral vieja, romanica, se empezo a construir en el silgo XII, pero no se sabe quienes participaron en el proyecto. El interior ya es de transicion hacia un nuevo estilo que se empezaba implantar en Espana, el ojival.
A finales del siglo XV, la catedral romanica se quedo pequena para las nuevas necesidades de una sede episcopal que adquiria cada vez mayor importancia, es por esto que Fernando el Catolico decidio levantar una nueva junto a la antigua, respetanto la construccion primitiva. Se encargo el proyecto a Juan Gil de Ontañon y al ano siguiente comenzo la edificacion.
In the walled city of Ávila, next to one of the entrance gates and forming part of the wall canvas and its defensive system, stands a notable cathedral, halfway between a temple and a fortress, within the transitional Gothic style, dedicated to El Salvador.
The primitive Romanesque cathedral was built in the time of Count Fernán Gonzáles. This temple was started at the end of the 11th century, and the current cathedral was built on it, at the same time as the walls of Ávila, when Alfonso VIII was king.
However, the works continued until the 15th century. On the outside, this cathedral has the appearance of a fortress. This impression is reinforced by the crenelated finishes and their inclusion in the wall where the apse draws attention.
Inside, it has an immensity of extremely delicate details where the finesse and realism of the images stand out, with beautiful tombs and a Gothic cloister with Renaissance cresting.
Jimena Bolívar is a seasoned travel writer with a unique passion for Spanish Food & Recipes. With a background in business and marketing, she brings a strategic and innovative approach to her writing, making her the perfect guide for those looking to truly experience the Authentic Spain. Jimena is also a Mother of 4, and is a huge fan of knitting her own clothes.